Being in the Vanguard on Ed-Tech Innovation Presents Startup Challenges

When we started eduCanon, we set out to be the first platform to democratize the sharing and creation of interactive videos for teachers. As teachers, we felt the pain of seeing students nod off during a classroom video.




And it was exciting when we rolled out the first version of eduCanon four years ago, on the heels of the flipped learning movement. However, being on the forefront of a movement also brings its own trials and tribulations. For us, one point of confusion revolves around the fact that teachers access YouTube and other online videos, then use eduCanon’s interactive tool to add questions and student engagement activies. But the videos remain hosted at their source, not by eduCanon. Sometimes end users may think that we are downloading the content from another site and uploading to ours.


Here’s the Challenge:

Recently we woke up to a call from a well-known YouTube star worried that eduCanon was hurting his channel’s success. We’d never considered this because we assumed more views could only be better for the video author. He explained that on eduCanon, users do not see pre-/post-video YouTube advertisements, which are valuable to his revenue stream. As teachers, we’ve spent very little time considering the value of advertisements—that they allow us to access all of this amazing content without paying a fee. You can imagine our surprise and sadness when we saw this on his YouTube page:


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We had been working to democratize interactive video, and had missed how we were impacting the other side of this market (the video creators). After looking through our code, we couldn’t find any toggle to turn on advertising so we took to the web and discovered our integration with YouTube did not appear to have an option to display advertisements. (If any readers know how to enable pre-/post-roll ads on the iframe API, please let us know!)


How to Proceed?

Truthfully, we don’t have the data to fully understand our impact on video creators, beyond the fact that eduCanon’s interactive video increases total utility and views, because democratized interactive video is a new space. We have some hunches, though our understanding of advertising is limited:

  1. We help YouTube stars reach a larger audience. These users view the YouTube-added layover banner ads in eduCanon and can also go to the YouTube channel to view the full pre-/post-video ads there (which equals more money for them).

  2. Current subscribers to that YouTube channel end up viewing those videos through eduCanon, hurting the total ads viewed (which equals less money for them).

  3. A balance, where some new users are added due to exposure to our community and some users end up relying on eduCanon to view videos as opposed to YouTube. This is probably the most likely scenario, but the implications are unclear.

So, to you the greater education community, what should we do? How can we continue to best support classroom teachers using YouTube videos and simultaneously support the video creators that generate revenue from advertising?

As an ed-tech startup on the forefront of a movement, I’m guessing this is just one of many such challenges we’ll face.


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